Diabetes, often referred to as diabetes mellitus, is characterized by high blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. This can be caused by one of two things: inadequate insulin production leading to an inability to stabilize glucose levels; or the body does not respond to insulin as it naturally should. Before we delve into the details of how it can be controlled, let’s familiarize ourselves with the disease itself.
Diabetes: An Overview
The blood sugar levels in the body tend to increase after food consumption. As per the normal functioning of the body’s internal system, the hormone insulin is released to regulate and stabilize glucose levels in the body. As aforementioned, disruptions in this natural process lead to consistently high blood sugar levels. Such patients typically experience the following symptoms:
- Polyuria (increased urination)
- Polydipsia (increased thirst)
- Polyphagia (increased hunger)
The three main forms of diabetes are described briefly below:
Type 1 diabetes:
Also referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes, juvenile diabetes, or early-onset diabetes, this condition is characterized by an inability to produce sufficient insulin. Without the presence of insulin, many of the body’s cells cannot absorb glucose from the blood stream.
Type 2 diabetes:
In this condition the body’s cells become insulin resistant i.e. they do not respond to hormone as they naturally should. Consequently, the body’s ability to take up glucose from the blood is compromised. This is the most common form of diabetes and usually affects those who are overweight or obese.
This form of diabetes affects females during pregnancy. During pregnancy, some women have very high blood sugar levels, and their bodies are unable to produce enough insulin to transport all of the glucose into the cells. This results in consistently high blood sugar levels, and leads to a bodily condition that mirrors the symptoms of conventional diabetes. Blood sugar level is considered to be high if it is found to be greater than 110 mg/dl (6.1 mmol/l) on an empty stomach while fasting, or greater than 200 mg/dl (11.1 mmol/l) at any time, usually two hours after eating. While every diabetic patient is advised to find what works best for his/her particular case of diabetes, there are a few standard precautions that every patient should take. Nothing trumps a balanced meal plan, an active lifestyle and of course the right medication to keep your blood glucose levels in check. These 10 tips will help you in your struggle to control your diabetic condition so that it does not interfere with your daily routine.
Tip # 1: Take Diabetes Medication as Directed
Diabetes symptoms can be quite discreet, so you may not find anything amiss when you neglect to take your medicine. Untreated diabetes carries the risk of heart disease, nerve damage and other complications. Be sure to take medications or insulin as directed by your physician. If you have uncomfortable side effects or questions about your treatment or medication plan, consult your doctor immediately.
Tip # 2: It’s Time to Quit Smoking
Smoking not only increases the risk of developing diabetes, but it also amplifies every problem and complication associated with diabetes. Smoking raises blood-glucose levels, constricts blood vessels, and causes inflammation. Smokers have an increased risk of kidney disease, nerve damage, blood-vessel damage, and foot and leg infections. Diabetic patients often have to struggle to keep their diet in check, and the negative effects of smoking do little to make this struggle any easier.
Tip # 3: Follow Consistent Eating Habits
Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can increase your blood glucose levels. When you don’t eat for several hours your body fuels itself on glucose released from the liver. For type 2 diabetics this can pose a serious problem because the liver is unable to ascertain when it needs to stop releasing glucose into the blood stream. Eating something with a little carbohydrate content signals the liver to stop.
Tip # 4: Bring Your Own Lunch
Avoid eating lunch at restaurants or fast-food joints. Restaurant meals tend to have large portions, and high calorie and fat content. Making your own lunch allows you to exercise control over the ingredients used and the portion size consumed.
Tip # 5: Exercise Regularly
Along with weight control and medical treatment, exercise is essential for the sustained health of diabetic patients. Regular exercise decreases body fat weight loss, improves blood sugar control and the body’s response to insulin. Aim to achieve at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. The key is to find something you enjoy doing and stick with it, whether it’s walking, swimming, cycling, or dancing.
Tip # 6: Keep a Food Record
As you gradually gain control over your weight and blood sugar, it can be helpful to keep a log that contains information about your eating habits. Every time you eat something make it a point to jot down what you ate, how much you ate, where you ate it, and when you ate it. You can even include your thoughts on how you feel health-wise pre and post eating. Over time, you’ll start to see a definite eating pattern.By identifying the situations in which you’re most likely to make poor food choices – something we often do as a result of stress or anxiety – you can adopt ways to circumvent such occasions.
Tip # 7: Maintain Dental Health
Unregulated diabetes also leads to higher than normal levels of glucose in your saliva, which raises the risk for dental decay. Diabetes makes fighting infections harder, so if you develop gum disease you’ll face a rather difficult time eliminating it. For healthy teeth and gums, dentists and nutritionists recommend that you visit your dentist regularly, brush with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, and remember to floss.
Tip # 8: Seek Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Excessive sleep during the daytime is often a sign of sleep apnea, a disorder that causes recurring interruptions in breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea can be caused by faulty signals from the brain, or because the soft tissues at the back of the throat tend to relax and blocks the airway (obstructive sleep apnea or OSA). People with diabetes are more likely to develop sleep apnea than those without diabetes. OSA increases the risk of insulin resistance and can be a roadblock to controlling diabetes.
Tip # 9: Be Mindful of Foot-Care
Diabetes can cause neuropathy (nerve damage). Since this disease usually originates from the feet, good foot-care is critical. Wash your feet daily in warm water, and dry them with a clean soft towel. Do not soak your feet for long periods of time, or use hot water. Common symptoms of nerve , you may not notice sores, blisters, calluses, swelling, bruising or breaks in the skin, so you’ll need to be careful about inspecting your feet every day. Also, talk to your doctor right away about how to treat any problems and don’t walk barefoot.
Tip # 10: Moderate Your Alcohol Intake
Drinking between one to two alcoholic drinks per day has been shown to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by an average of 30 percent. This in no way implies that non-drinkers should take up drinking. Regular drinkers are the target audience of this particular tip.
Diabetes can be an intimidating disease, and while it is true that patients must always remain vigilant about their health, this does not imply that a healthy and active life cannot be enjoyed. Gradually incorporate these tips into your daily routine, and you will find that coping with your disease will become more manageable with every passing day. Be sure to consult your doctor before making changes to your regular routine or dietary habits.